Photo credit: Amy Irvin 38 Photogrophy
A plan can be a reassuring guide when executed properly. Or it can be a list of what went wrong. Ronald Jeffrey Hextall’s plan is to re-build the Flyers for LONG-term success. Hextall has executed Step 1 in picking-up where Paul Holmgren has left off in that the Flyers now posses a defensive prospect cupboard that is the envy of the league. Step 2 was to resupply the goalie pipe-line with promising net minders Matej Tomek and Felix Sandstrom. Step 3 is also underway by building forward depth with Travis Koenecy, Oskar Lindblom, and Cooper Marody. Step 4 will be to figure out how to develop these prospects to reach their full potential while also manage these assets to keep them Flyers as long as possible. Step 5 is to maneuver around the cap well enough to retain as many as these prospects as possible.
If you’re paying attention, Step 1 is complete with parts of 2 and 3 getting there, and Step 4 (the longest/hardest step) is very much a work in progress. It can be easy to forget and/or want to expedite the plan when the Flyers are having the season they currently are. Even more so, everybody in town is all over the fast-forward button with the very impressive play of, Shayne Gostisbehere.
But we should all take a collective breath and remember that we should stay the course that Hextall has laid out and bring our prospects along as slow as possible for: A) developmental reasons and B) asset management/cap reasons.
A) Gostisbehere is A LOT of fun to watch (in the offensive zone). There is no denying that this kid has superior offensive ability from the point. He has even shown flashes of brilliance in breakaway pass execution and his ability to transition from defense to offense with his wheels.
However, Ryan Gilbert’s Fancy Stats for Sons of Penn (a must read article) has shown that Gostisbehere is being protected better than you protect your cache of Thanksgiving leftovers. Gostisbehere’s 60% offensive zone starts against the Rangers was the lowest of his career and wasn’t so much a sign of Hakstol being confident in his defensive ability but more a result of Gudas getting 18 penalty minutes/Schutlz getting injured.
The bottom line is that as much as I love yelling “#GhostBombs!” to no one in my living room whenever he touches the puck, it is a mini-drama in it of itself watching him force badly needed offense into our league worst offense while he tries to figure out the world of the defensive zone.
B) As frustrating and as painful it has been watching our current defense, Luke Schenn, Radko Gudas, Brandon Manning and Evgeny Medvedev all have expiring contracts and I don’t expect any of them to be back next year. Bottom line is that this defense will look different come September.
(all contract information is from generalfanager.com)
I understand that some of your pants just got tighter thinking about having Travis Sanheim, Ivan Provorov, and Samuel Morin step into these vacant spots right away, however, such a move would be a mistake for a various reasons.
First of which, this would be your defense:
Gostisbehere – Streit
Sanheim – Del Zotto
Provorov – Schultz
Does that look okay to you? 5 years from now, this looks spectacular! Next year, this looks like a D-corp that will lead the league in turnovers, failed clears, and defensive zone time but will still put up a 40%ish Corsi rating because they might just be that offensively talented.
Point being is that despite the allure of being rid of half of our terrible defense combined with the frustration of waiting for our godly defensive prospects, the Flyers should pick-up at least 2 steady, reliable defensemen that can properly protect and mentor these kids along the NHL learning curve. Think about it, Chris Pronger and Nicklas Lindstrom had Brad McCrimmon, Rob Blake had Larry Robinson, and currently Aaron Ekblad has Willie Mitchell/Brian Campbell to teach them how to be 25+ minute NHL defensemen. So, it may not be the “sexiest” roster move ever done in this town but Hextall should really consider signing a Dan Hamius at $4ish million for the next 2-3 years, or trading for quietly reliable guys like Mark Fayne or Clayton Stoner at $3.5ish million to be there when Provorov and/or Sanheim make mistakes.
Assuming that everything goes to plan and all four become 25+ minute defensemen for us (I’m not factoring in Robert Haag because I don’t think he’s going to pan out), Gostisbehere is already on year 2 of 3 on his Entry Level Contract (ELC) and Morin is on year 1 meaning that the former will be a RFA in 2017 with the later in 2018. Combine that with the potential of Sanheim and Provorov coming off of their ELC’s in 2019 and/or 2020. So, what will those second contracts look like?
Contracts are an exercise of comparison so, with a very small sample size (and a whole lot of hope), Gostisbehere compares to Erik Karlson. Karlson went from a a 3yr $875,000 ELC to a 7yr $6.5M second contract – which is possibility #1.
Possibility #2 is the “Parnell Karl Subban bridge deal” scenario in which he went from a 3yr $875,000 ELC, to a 2yr $2.875M second/”show me” contract, to a 8yr $9M third contract.
Possibility #3 is the “John Klingberg, MENSA-brilliant deal that the Flyers should totally do with all of these prospects” in which Klingberg went from a 3yr $715,000 ELC to a 7yr $4.25M second contract.
Possibility #4 is that one or all of them fail to reach expectation and receive an obligatory RFA qualifying offer which, of course, is the nightmare scenario.
Continuing to assume that everyone develops according to plan, and that Hextall is able to “Robert Nielson kneecap-negotiate” everyone’s agents on their second deals, we’re looking at a best case scenario of having Gostisbehere, Sanheim, Morin and Provov all sign 5-7yr second contracts $4.25-$6M a piece. IF such circumstances do come to fruition then the Flyers could stand to have 4 home grown, 25+ minute defensemen signed through 2025-2030 for up to $24M a year.
Not too firggin shabby if you ask me.
With all that being said, remember that this can only work if we don’t screw ourselves by: A) rushing any of these kids along; B) not bring in veterans to guide them along their learning curves; C) get sucked into giving any (or all) of them P.K. Subban money; D) none of them turning out to suck; and E) we can’t replicate a similar model with the offense and goaltending.
So, is it exciting to watch Gostisbhere blast #GhostBombs all day, watch youtube videos of Provov and Sanheim skate around the WHL, Konecny treat the OHL like his play thing, and Morin melt people’s faces with his fists ?
Heck yea it is!
But it will be much more exciting and the dividends will pay out SOOOOOOOO much bigger if we temper our present excitement, and remain patient to reap the rewards many, many, many years in the future if we stick to the plan.